Is nature's wisdom the map for repairing our culture?

Rewilding ourselves could be the key to successfully changing the culture in which we live

Imagine yourself standing on a peak overlooking a great distance of land, a vista of life unfolding. It is Spring-time. Birdsong is vibrant and you see great forests, open meadows, sparkling rivers, and beautiful edges - where regenerative agriculture and human designed landscapes merge with the wild. There are villages and towns, a sense of peace and joyful activity. You imagine the people living there to be fully expressing their gifts, truly helpful to each other, and caring for all of life.

You long to go there, but are aware there is some tough challenging terrain between where you stand and the world you dream of. Let’s explore this terrain.

Here in the Northern hemisphere, we are at the threshold of the next growth year in nature.

It's clear this pandemic is ongoing. Its effects and what its highlighting are becoming more long-term. It is yet another emergency arising from the imbalance humans are creating on Earth.

Bringing about much change in the world, the pandemic offers opportunities for reflection on our personal lives and the choices we have and continue to make as societies. Unprecedented in our modern age, is the acuteness by which it has shown not only our connection, but our interdependence as a global community. Although it has cut through many socio-economic layers that emergency situations often fail to, it has also been yet another agent for showing us the inequalities in our society and across our planet. It is a container that has both agitated and created space for issues of core importance to arise for healing.

A new old map

Back to that peak you are standing on, with that magnificent view in front of you, and that terrain in between. What if there was a map to guide you through this tough terrain, giving you the core practices needed to create this world emerging before you?

Imagine standing there as this map materialises in your hands. This is not a new map, it has existed since time immemorial but has been largely forgotten in modern times. Based around the cycles and patterns of nature, and with the days and the seasons as its foundation, it has been used by earth-based cultures all around the world.

Just as a geographical map will help you orient to a physical landscape, this cultural map will support you to understand life and to navigate your pathways within it, as an individual and societally.

As you look around, you notice you are not alone. You and many others are making this journey through the tough terrain together.

Some key questions will guide you.

  • By pausing and listening to nature, what can you learn from the seasons of the year, the cycle of a life, the hours of the day?
  • What was your ancestor’s relationship to the land and nature, what has been lost and how have you personally been impacted by this loss in your life?
  • How can we create the healing needed to acknowledge and transform the stories we each carry?
  • What are the connection practices we need to bring back to our lives and societies to ensure a different lived history for future generations?

Bringing it home

With those questions and that map in your mind, I’d like to introduce you to the yearlong Bringing it Home course, offered by members of the Nature Culture Network which is a European 8 Shields based community for growing nature-based cultures of connection.

As one of the lead facilitators, I can say we have designed this course for the profound times we live in. It provides an in-depth opportunity for people to rewild their lives through connection to nature, creating cultures that nourish all of life. It is ideal for those looking for nature based personal development, community building and ways of developing their leadership skills.

In 2020, the Bringing It Home course adapted from connecting people with nature in Dartmoor, UK, to doing it online. It worked because people were able to connect to the land and their communities where they live, rather than the learnings being confined to connections created during a retreat. The time online is used to support real time connection in peoples lives - at home.

At the heart of this journey we use the 8 Shields map, developed by Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute over the last 40 years. It is an eight direction cultural life map - with each direction called a Shield for how it holds many different aspects related to that direction. Drawing on observed wisdom from nature and learnings from earth based cultures, it teaches how nature connection and cultural repair are two things that go hand in hand, arising together.

As an example let’s focus on the East direction. Just as the sun rises to the East each day, this direction is about beginnings. In the yearly cycle we have Spring when life bursts forth, and in the cycle of life think of the moment of birth. The questions we ask ourselves are about welcoming, creating the safety and structure to start things well ... How do we begin our day, prepare for the arrival of Spring, welcome a new baby into the world?

It is important to say “the map is not the territory”, and there is a mystery to life that no map can fully capture. Maps show us the way to discover.

Teachings from the Earth

In Western culture, there hasn't been a cultural map to connect us to the living Earth. Separated from our natural home, we have missed the root of the problem, we have not been radical enough. We have become ecologically isolated, the impossibility of which we are now acutely experiencing. Even in our attempts at conservation and sustainability, we often don’t understand how to support and listen to the wisdom of nature.

Glimmers of change are appearing, movements towards implementing nature’s principles and innate healing capacity, from our economies - such as Amsterdam committing to the doughnut economic model for post-pandemic recovery - to our healthcare systems with green prescriptions and forest therapy, are gaining traction.

Nature is us, and connecting to the greater natural world connects us to ourselves, in a way where we get to know ourselves as part of, rather than separate from. We expand our individual ego self and connect to a much greater identity, that of the ecological self - a living breathing human that recognises, knows deep in their bones, that in every moment we are alive because of all of life.

How would it be for you to feel this level of deep connection? What is it that you would do living from this expanded awareness? What choices would you make? What commitment would you step into?

The Earth teaches us, shifting and changing as part of the being she is. It is the fault lines in her mantle where new growth takes place. Sometimes this growth is explosive and hot, sometimes it is a flow. As a human species we are erupting, fault lines are shifting. When we are at our most vulnerable we are, potentially, at our most powerful.

Let’s use that power to imagine into being an ecological civilisation where we all can belong.

There is a map, nature is with us.